Macbeth as an Anti Hero

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 683 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 683|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The Journey of an Anti-Hero
  2. Macbeth's Moral Ambiguity
  3. Macbeth's Tragic Flaws
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is a tragic tale of ambition, power, and the corrupting influence of unchecked ambition. The protagonist, Macbeth, is often regarded as a tragic hero, but upon closer examination, it becomes clear that he more closely aligns with the characteristics of an anti-hero. An anti-hero is a protagonist who lacks traditional heroic qualities, often displaying morally ambiguous actions and motivations. In this essay, we will explore the reasons why Macbeth can be considered an anti-hero. Through an analysis of his actions, motivations, and character development throughout the play, it becomes evident that Macbeth’s journey is more aligned with that of an anti-hero rather than a traditional tragic hero.

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The Journey of an Anti-Hero

Macbeth’s journey from a revered soldier to a tyrannical king is marked by a series of morally ambiguous actions and decisions. Unlike a traditional hero who strives for noble goals and displays admirable qualities, Macbeth’s motivations are driven by his own ambition and the manipulations of his wife, Lady Macbeth. He is not driven by a desire to do good or to protect his people, but rather by a selfish hunger for power. This is evident when he first contemplates the idea of murdering King Duncan:

“I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other.” (I.vii.25-28)

Here, Macbeth admits that his only motivation for killing the king is his own ambition, not any external factors or noble intentions. This self-serving ambition is a key characteristic of an anti-hero, as they are driven by personal gain rather than the greater good.

Macbeth's Moral Ambiguity

In addition to his self-serving ambition, Macbeth’s moral ambiguity is further highlighted by his willingness to commit heinous acts in order to achieve his goals. The murder of King Duncan is just the beginning of his descent into darkness. Macbeth orders the deaths of Banquo and Macduff’s family, showing a complete disregard for human life. These actions are not driven by a sense of justice or righteousness, but rather by a desperate attempt to hold onto power. While a traditional hero would prioritize the well-being of others and strive to protect the innocent, Macbeth is willing to sacrifice anyone who stands in his way. This lack of moral integrity is a defining characteristic of an anti-hero.

Macbeth's Tragic Flaws

Macbeth’s journey towards becoming an anti-hero is also marked by his tragic flaws, which ultimately lead to his downfall. One of his most prominent flaws is his unchecked ambition. While ambition can be seen as a positive trait in moderation, Macbeth’s ambition consumes him, leading him to make rash decisions and commit immoral acts. This unchecked ambition is evident when he says:

“I have almost forgot the taste of fears;
The time has been, my senses would have cool'd
To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair
Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir
As life were in't: I have supp'd full with horrors;
Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,
Cannot once start me.” (V.v.10-16)

Here, Macbeth reveals that he has become desensitized to the horrors he has committed, highlighting the extent to which his unchecked ambition has corrupted him. This tragic flaw of ambition, along with his moral ambiguity, further solidifies Macbeth’s classification as an anti-hero rather than a traditional tragic hero.


In conclusion, Macbeth’s journey from a respected soldier to a tyrannical king aligns more closely with the characteristics of an anti-hero rather than a traditional tragic hero. His motivations are driven by self-serving ambition, his actions are morally ambiguous, and his tragic flaws ultimately lead to his downfall. While he may display some qualities typically associated with a tragic hero, such as a noble birth and a tragic ending, Macbeth’s overall character arc and the implications of his actions firmly place him in the realm of an anti-hero. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Macbeth challenges traditional notions of heroism and invites audiences to question the nature of power and ambition. Macbeth serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the dangers of unchecked ambition and the potential for corruption that lies within us all.

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Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, The Royal Shakespeare Company, 2011.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Macbeth as an Anti Hero. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
“Macbeth as an Anti Hero.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Macbeth as an Anti Hero. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
Macbeth as an Anti Hero [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 23]. Available from:
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